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SHOW OF HANDS - "Live at the Royal Albert Hall" - Hands on Music HMCD01

There are probably two types of person who will buy this album. Those who were there at the concert, and those who wanted to, but couldn't make it. Neither will be disappointed. For this isn't just a record - albeit condensed and in a different order - of what turned out to be a pretty neat night. It also stands alone as a showcase for the best of the band's repertoire over the last couple of years.

But the reason I think I will keep coming back to this album is how well it shows the duo's exceptional abilities as performers. Thinking of Phil Beer as a multi-instrumentalist has become a cliché, but just listen to him play fiddle on "The Blind Fiddler" as if his life depended on it, his elegant cuatro on "Santiago" or the subtlety of his slide guitar work on "The Blue Cockade". The boy is a genius.

And Steve Knightley must have been bathing his tonsils in honey for weeks before the gig. His harmonies with Sally Barker on "Captains" should be filed under S for spine-tingling. There is a hint of over-excitement in his voice throughout, which along with the contributions of the various guests gives a bit of an edge to the performances, particularly on stompers like "The Galway Farmer" and "The Hunter".

There is just enough chat between songs to give a flavour of the live experience, without becoming boring. And with only three tracks in common with the 1992 live album, it's not just for completists. Fans, maybe, but not completists.

Graham Gurrin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 22 of The Living Tradition magazine.